Saturday, July 4, 2009

40> PRT: The Best Idea that Nobody Knows About

OK, Almost nobody, not counting the intelligent and insightful readers I am presently addressing…We have a problem here. And it needs to be addressed head-on. The problem is this. Great ideas don’t rise into actual day-to-day reality simply by being great ideas. The most brilliant innovations will lie dormant until their time has come, and not a day earlier.

So what makes an innovation an “idea whose time has come?" Pressure. Pressure of public opinion. Pressure of greed. Pressure to do the right thing. Pressure from loved ones. Pressure from above. Pressure from below. Political pressure, Peer pressure. The pressure to make the safe choice.

We don’t have a better idea problem. We have a pressure problem. More specifically, we have a complete lack of pressure to change the status quo on the people who could make it happen. The people who control transportation control existing forms of transportation. They control roads, bridges, buses, and trains. Those are their tools. Carpenters use nails and surgeons use scalpels. Our transportation people use the tools they know. PRT is not, currently, one of those tools.

This is an extremely hard lesson to learn for intellectual, inventive, types. We, (yes I count myself also) tend to think that any great idea should be instantly embraced, as though the entire populous is in a constant, active search for a better way. The problem is that humans are more generally in a search for a way to avoid the pressures that are put upon them.

This brings me to the picture. To creatures who try to avoid unwanted pressure, guilt is a strong motivator. It is extremely easy to continue to do the wrong thing as long as everybody else does it too, and our eyes are diverted from the truth. Hence the popularity of gas guzzling SUVs. The act depicted here prompts the witness to consider the hidden environmental cost of every gallon of gas.

This idea came to me because I realized that I could not visualize the “tons” of carbon dioxide that environmentalists where talking about, so I decided to find out just what the volume of that CO2 from burned gasoline was. After finding that out, (4.867 cubic meters per gallon) I needed a vessel to put it in, and naturally chose a balloon, and figured the radius to come to 1.051 meters.

Since it is easier for me to make a faux image than a real one, I had to find pictures of big balloons, and I quickly found the world of advertising balloons, and a thought came to me. The demonstration of volume of CO2 is better done in person than an image on the web. A single person standing (like in the picture) by a busy road could reach thousands. An organized campaign could reach millions. It also occurred to me that the balloon companies could, perhaps, be enticed to donate the balloons for free, especially if their own name appeared on the balloon, big enough for cameras to pick up. (Technical note, before someone orders one, the balloon as shown could spin as to be unreadable, because it needs two point tethering)

Just a thought folks, from a man who would like to turn up the pressure. By the way, wear T-shirts saying, “P.R.T.” “Look It Up.” (or something like that)

P.S. My apologies to my metric using friends abroad, I’m short of time today as it is “Independence Day” here in U.S., So, to my fellow Americans, happy Fourth of July!

Remember, it is your patriotic duty to point out stupid national behavior, no matter how common. For each of us to dump that much Carbon Dioxide on a daily basis is nothing short of insane. Every one of us can help create the pressure for change, even if it is simply to say something to a friend. Better yet, email the above picture to someone you love.


Christer JP Lindström said...

Hi Dan,

I want to invite you to as a speaker. How do I get hold of you? Regards, Christer Lindstrom

Dan said...

Sorry Christer, I was quite surprised to find that my email address had vanished from the bottom of the page. No wonder my mail has been tapering off..Its, and is now posted over the little animation on the top right of the page. I look forward to hearing the details!

akauppi said...

I like your balloon idea.

Only, it should be made in reality, not by photoshopping. When pictures like this start circulating the net (and they may do so fast) it is utterly important to avoid accusations of fake.

What I would do about this is (and I don't do this, sorry):

- Do a real balloon, go real in a sunny parking lot like your photo has
- Have a friend take multiple pictures, maybe with a video cam as well (for Youtube upload)
- Try to get positively in touch with people fetching their cars (not just stand there as a jerk)
- Maybe (only maybe) have flyouts to give to interested people (interested only). Maybe the friend can help in this, so you would only hold the balloon up.

Document the happening on a web site, tell its "recipe". What worked, what did not.

Start a Google Earth pins collection, showing where this has been done. And with a picture attached to each pin. This should both document the spread of it and give people motivation to make their own "pin".

Parking lot is probably way easier than road side, has less safety issues, allows one to converse with people. It is also okay for the bubble -sorry- balloon to have only one support (and roll around).

Great idea!

Dan said...

Dan the Blogger Responds-
Sorry I took so long to get back to you on this, Akauppi. Those are all excellent suggestions. I hope someone with a lot more time than me does something with them!

Anonymous said...

Once a PRT system gets built in the US and put into actual public service (rather than just servicing an airport, a university, or a corporate park), all bets are off. People will be able to see pretty easily that it's cheaper, more efficient and more convenient than either driving or conventional transit, and they will demand more of it. That's how you get the ball rolling. So the only trick is to get even a single a functioning demonstration system up. I just wrote one of my elected officials proposing just that in my area, and I hope you will do so for your area.